Ask any Major League Soccer fan to name a centre back in America’s top league and the likelihood is that not many will suggest New York Red Bulls’ Aaron Long.
But after an impressive spell in Red Bulls’ second team, the 24-year-old may finally be getting his big break in the MLS after years of waiting.
Long started his career with college soccer side, UC Riverside in 2010. The defender then moved to Premier Development League outfit, FC Tucson for a year in 2013 where he made 17 league appearances.
During the 2014 MLS Superdraft, the talented youngster joined top division side, Portland Timbers in the second round coming into the draft in 36th position overall.
After failing to break into the Timbers first team, the 6ft 2 inch defender went on loan to both Sacramento Republic and Orange County Blues in 2014 in order to gain first team football.
Long’s first taste of frequent first team football came with Seattle Sounders II in 2015 following his release from his first MLS side, Timbers.
With his first goal for Sounders II coming against USL side, Arizona United SC (who are now named Phoenix Rising FC) the then-midfielder started to play more regularly in centre back.
After 28 matches to his belt as a Sounders II player, Long went on trial with New York Red Bulls.
In March 2016, the California born defender joined New York Red Bulls’ second team where he made his debut in a 2-2 draw against Toronto II FC. The defender was also on the scoring front for NYRB II with goals coming against Orlando B and Wilmington Hammerheads.
Following his impressive performances for Red Bulls II, with 22 appearances to his name, Long was acquired for the side’s first team where he made his debut against Alianza FC in the CONCACAF Champions League in August 2016.
After being named the 2016 USL Defender of the Year as well as also being chosen for the 2016 USL All-League First Team, following victory in the USL Cup with New York Red Bulls II, the 24-year-old was tipped to feature more regularly within the Bulls’ first team.
Long made his first start of the 2017 MLS season against new MLS franchise, Atlanta United.
NYRB came from a goal down to claim their first three points of the year in a 2-1 victory.
Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said: “We are pleased to add Aaron to our MLS roster.
“Aaron has shown a lot of development over the last year and has earned this opportunity.
“This is also a very proud moment for the club as we successfully transition another player from our USL team to a first-team contract.”
With Long now playing first team football for one of America’s biggest side, many fans hope the player can bring USL success to the first team with fan, Javier Bocanegra saying: “I don’t care what anybody says but this kid impressed me in the CCL matches I saw him play last year as well as all of the USL matches I watched.
“He will be a big help in our backline.”